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Being a bi-polar nurse~what's it like?

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by MsEnfermera MsEnfermera (New) New

MsEnfermera has 22 years experience and specializes in Ambulatory Care Management,Home Health.

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I've been a nurse over 20 years, have been off work the past two and am now in the process of returning (interviews and such). I've had depression issues for more than 10 years, dealt with the meds and hid it very well from everyone in my workplace including family. I had a manic episode a year and a half ago~that litteraly left me wandering thinking my name was Jane Doe and I was in the witness protection program. How on earth my mind came up with that I will NEVER know. 2 years prior to this incident I had a "breakdown" after 2 major deaths and was first dxd as bi-polar.

As I said I am now working with a recruiter and have pending interviews. I know better to disclose this as they wont hire me~the stigma in the work place is horrid. But how is it knowing you are bi-polar and working? I'm scared sh##less that I will go manic one day at work with people who know nothing about me. I wont be doing hands on, it will be more admin/case management. But do you wake up everyday and ask yourself am I OK to work as a nurse today? How do you deal with taking time off for appointments? I never worried about time off since I had been with my previous employer years.

While I am excited to get back to work and get health insurance again...so I can get out of the public county mental health system. :banghead: I find myself questioning and doubting my nursing knowledge and second guessing my thoughts where as previously I was completely confident. I wonder how it will be to get up and go to work and function when I have a bad day. Am I the only one? I know it doesnt go away and I have to learn how to control it~but the stigma and shame and embarrasment of being "labeled" as the "crazy nurse" scares the h### out of me!!:cry: This is a new job a fresh start and do over. (I was terminated from my previous employer for an unrelated isssue) I realize its all part of the diagnosis and know I am not alone although it feels like it......what advice or suggestions do you have?

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mustlovepoodles is a RN and specializes in OB/GYN, Peds, School Nurse, DD.

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I so empathize with you. I have had depression for at least 37 years, at least 13 serious bouts for which I received anti-depressants and occasional therapy. Only on rare occasions have I shared that with employers or co-workers. I was hospitalized in October with suicidal ideation and consequently diagnosed with anxiety and bipolar II. I was put on a mood-stabilizer and an antidepressant that they use for intractable depression and I kinda got a little better. I went back to work sooner than I should have and I continued to have frequent severe mood swings. Finally, when I became suicidal again, I was admitted to the psych hospital for medication management and intensive treatment. I've been there for the past 6 weeks and things are getting better. I think we finally have the right med cocktail and my moods are definitely less labile.

All that to say, I've probably had bipolar for the past 25 years and didn't know it. Somehow I functioned without giving myself away. Of course, I never had any psychosis, just deep deep depression. There have been times when I had to give up a job because I simply couldn't cope. I tend toward depression with bouts of hypomania, which might sound good, except that I don't experience the good stuff; I get so irritable I hate everyone, my husband, my kids, even my dog! I run away from home and I talk incessently. So it's very hard to work like that. But so far I haven't been fired for it. Everyone just assumes that's how I am(or was) and carefully steps around me.

I think the first item of business is to make sure your meds are right and then take them every single day. Try to find a support group and see if you can get at least a few sessions with a therapist, to help you get those feelings out. Make sure you are leaving time for yourself, so you can recharge every day. That's an area that is particularly hard for a lot of nurses--we take care of everyone but ourselves.

I believe you can work again, the support systems that I have mentioned. There are a lot of people out there in the world who have mental health issues, and at least some of them are nurses. :nurse:

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36 Posts; 1,702 Profile Views

First for the sake of your sanity and confidence make 100% sure that you are mentally fit to work again. And do not return until you are.

If you feel that you can not trust yourself to be mentally competent than maybe now is not the time to return to work. But, once you do and you and your doctor feel that you have resolved this problem then put it behind you. No need to discuss your past. All you need to focus on is what your new responsiblities are and your skills to take care of residents. If for some reason you have a relapse then deal with it. Call in sick and take care of yourself.

Remember you cant live your life in the rear view mirror because the past is dead and gone and the future never comes. All we have is today it is a gift that is why we call it the present.

No, you do not need to offer information about your mental illness to your employer, employees or anyone else. Cause either you are mentally fit to work or you are not it is not a gray area. If you are not then why bother working. If you are then talk about all of the positive things you have to offer.

By the way good luck. You are taking a brave step and just put one foot in front of the other and start walking into your new future.

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jeng1969 has 13 years experience and specializes in LTC, hospice.

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"No, you do not need to offer information about your mental illness to your employer, employees or anyone else. Cause either you are mentally fit to work or you are not it is not a gray area. If you are not then why bother working. If you are then talk about all of the positive things you have to offer."

I think this is really good advice. I appreciate it and will take it to heart. Everyone has a bad day, but sometimes we beat ourselves up too much. It is not easy. It takes courage to get out there every day and do what we have to do. It's crucially important to take care of ourselves. I am overweight ( I am sure that some meds I take contribute to this), but I have been feeling hopeless about it until recently...I work evening shift and I started going for a walk in the morning and swimming at the YMCA before work which helps me gets relaxed and focused for work. Having a routine helps me, as well as accessing my support people when I need them. Good luck and I look forward to following this thread.

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Lorie P. specializes in Med/Surge, Private Duty Peds.

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there is no reason to let your employer know about you medical issues. keep up with the doc visits, meds and exercising.

if you need a day to regroup, take a sick day and take care of yourself.

good luck!! come here anytime to vent, share the good and bad, at least we understand what you are going through!:heartbeat

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Cherybaby has 10 years experience and specializes in Derm/Wound Care/OP Surgery/LTC.

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With regard to not having to let your employer know about your issues...I have a question.

In my experience, I have had to give my employer a list of medications that I am taking. Any nurse with a lick of experience would take one look at my list and KNOW that I am being treated for bipolar disorder.

Are you required to give a list of your meds before starting a job? And if so, how on earth could you possibly keep your condition to yourself?

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Holy Guiacamole is a BSN and specializes in ICU/Ortho/Med surg.

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...I do not know what it is like to be bi-polar but I know what it is like to work with bi-polar nurses...especially when they go off their meds, or decide they are "cured" Sorry, no disrespect intended. I wish you the best of luck

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rachelgeorgina specializes in ..

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Why would you need to disclose your medications? Unless the drugs you might pose a significant risk to you/others in the work place I dont see why there is a legit reason to let your employer know what you're taking, esp if it might open you up to discrimination in the workplace. Personally, I've never been asked to disclose my meds and I'd object if I were. I'm not going to happily tell my employer that I take Lithium and a host of other drugs to treat my (well controlled) bipolar disorder if it poses a threat to a) my employment and b) the possibility of discrimination

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71 Posts; 2,536 Profile Views

Before being hired, I had to go through drug testing and disclose any medications I was taking. In that scenerio, the employer would be informed before hiring. Where it goes from there, I'm not sure.

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tothepointeLVN has 3 years experience as a LVN and specializes in Hospice / Ambulatory Clinic.

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The only suggestion I have from personal experience is to monitor your sleep habits. If you notice a subtle shift take that as a warning sign and nip it in the bud.

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Melina specializes in home health, neuro, palliative care.

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Before being hired, I had to go through drug testing and disclose any medications I was taking. In that scenerio, the employer would be informed before hiring. Where it goes from there, I'm not sure.

Other than pass or fail on a drug test, Occ Health never told my nurse manager about my health status. I have never heard of an employer ask for a list of meds; is that even legal?

~Mel'

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bluegeegoo2 has 11 years experience as a LPN and specializes in LTC.

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Being a bipolar nurse depends entirely on what's happening at the moment. :D It can be tough when there is a million things going on...call lights going off...phone ringing...family trying to flag you down...half a hall of meds to finish passing...orders on the fax...alarms going off...it's enough to make a "sane" person buckle, much less those of us less equipped to deal with high-stress situations. Some days I will do just fine, others, not so much. There are plenty of days that I can be doing just great, then the bottom falls out and I can't cope anymore. That's when you lock the med cart, excuse yourself, and find a quiet place to re-center yourself. My managers are aware of my dx, so they understand if I need to "take 5" in the middle of the med pass, or suddenly have to take a minute otherwise. It's not easy. I often wonder if I'll be able to maintain employment, but I keep trying. Getting the meds right is paramount, but is mostly trial and error. I'm better now than I ever have been, but nowhere near 100%. (Whatever that is. I get the feeling it borders on mania. That's when I feel the best!). Most of my coworkers know of my dx as well, so when I'm a bit snippy, or bouncing off the walls, they understand why I all over the place. I'm not a bit ashamed of my dx. Why should I be? I have found most, if not all, of my coworkers are very receptive of it and are curious as to what it is. They ask lots of questions. Most of them have either see sx's in themselves, friends, or loved ones by what I've taught them! Some have even gone to the MD themselves or at least encouraged others to seek help. I don't use it as an excuse to be...er...contrary, however. I own my shortcomings and most people respect that. I'm rambling. Good luck with your re-entry into nursing. It can be done. We can only try and see where we go. What's that saying? It's better to have tried and fail, than to never have tried at all. Again, good luck!

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